Liquor delivery?: Grocery stores see demand from customers; La Crosse tavern leaders disagree

Lawmakers and grocery industry leaders work to make liquor delivery legal in Wisconsin; tavern leaders say it's a mistake

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — People can order just about anything with the touch of a screen — except for alcohol. Some business leaders want to change that. Others argue it’s a safety hazard.

Online grocery shopping was popular before the pandemic, and it’s only grown since then. Now customers want alcohol included in this perk. But is it safe? It depends on whom you ask.

Instant gratification drives the retail and foodservice market with delivery apps thriving in a technology-driven world.

“One of the things customers want is to have a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine, or booze delivered to their home,” said Brandon Scholz, CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

Right now, alcohol is not something you can buy for delivery. However, Scholz is working with Wisconsin lawmakers to change that.

“Customers have changed, the way their customers buy has changed,” he said. “We are not back in the old days of pulling up and having a draft at the bar.”

Lawmakers will have to consider several issues. One is how delivery drivers plan to check the photo IDs of those who are ordering.

“We’ll take a picture of the driver’s license, take a picture of the individual taking the product at the door,” Scholz said.

Technology exists to make this work. However, La Crosse Tavern League President Mike Brown questions the dependability of that process.

“Is it gonna be reliable? Is it getting delivered to the right house? Is it being stolen off the doorstep and a kid gets it? There’s no tracking that product from A to B,” Brown said.

Grocery chain Woodman’s is receiving a demand for home delivery. It set up a web page asking customers to contact state lawmakers so the company can deliver alcohol to homes. Brown said this proposal will dump more money into wealthy companies.

“The sheer volume of that kind of stuff always shifts to the big places where they can get the cheapest price,” Brown said.

Brown said that leaves mom-and-pop bars and restaurants at another disadvantage, along with providing another avenue for people who shouldn’t drink.

“I just think it’s hypocritical for people to say Wisconsin has this huge drinking problem, yet they want to try to ship more alcohol easier,” Brown said.

Curbside liquor sales are already in place throughout Wisconsin. In March, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill into law allowing restaurants and bars to sell cocktails to go, but not for delivery. Under this delivery proposal, all grocery retailers, bars and restaurants could deliver liquor with a license.